Ten-man Mazembe oust Pachuca
© AFP

TP Mazembe Englebert will face Sport Club Internacional in the last four of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Club de Futbol Pachuca at Abu Dhabi’s Mohammad Bin Zayad Stadium. Tournament specialist Mbeza Beli struck the decisive goal as the African champions survived a second-half onslaught and the dismissal of Stoppila Sunzu to take their place in the semi-finals and atone for last year’s shock exit.

Given both sides’ previous disappointments in this competition, it was understandable that tension reigned during some cagey opening exchanges lit up only by the musical backing of TP Mazembe’s colourful travelling support. However, after a forgettable opening 19 minutes, the game came spectacularly to life when Pachuca’s Alejandro Manso rattled the inside of the post, watching in agony as his sweetly struck left-foot volley from the corner of the 18-yard box bounced to safety.

His disappointment intensified two minutes later when TP Mazembe, with virtually their first noteworthy attack of the match, snatched the lead. Mulota Kabangu was the goal’s architect, flicking through an incisive pass with the outside of his right foot, which the on-rushing Mbeza Bedi took in his stride, lashing the ball into the roof of the net.

It was a fine strike from the player responsible for the Africans’ only goal at the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup, and unlike last year – when Pohang Steelers recovered to win 2-1 – Mazembe succeeded in holding firm. Pachuca's failure was not for lack of effort, however, Manso again went close with a 20-yard free-kick that was deflected narrowly wide, while Francisco Torres had the ball in the net only for the play to be called back for offside.

However, the CONCACAF representatives could have found themselves 2-0 down eight minutes before half-time when Dioko Kaluyituka threaded a pass into the left channel for Given Singuluma, who tugged his left-foot shot just wide of the far post. The Mexicans did begin the second period positively, putting the Africans’ defence under sustained pressure, but wayward finishing and sloppy passing contributed to precious little in the way of clear-cut chances.

Frustrated, they began to resort to shooting from distance, a tactic that very nearly paid off just after the hour-mark when Raul Martinez left the woodwork shuddering with a 35-yard piledriver. With Pablo Marini having introduced Edgar Benitez and switched to a more adventurous formation, Mazembe found themselves forced to repel wave after wave of Pachuca attacks, although Medi came close to adding a second with a 20-yard shot that Miguel Calero did well to tip round the post.

At the other end, Franco Arizala spurned one of the game’s better opportunities, cutting inside from the right and curling a left-foot shot wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy. And despite playing out the final nine minutes at a numerical disadvantage after Sunza collected a second yellow card for crashing into Manso, Mazembe clung on to secure an historic victory.